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Tour de France News July 7, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Shy guy Petacchi: "I'll win it"

Petacchi talks to Cyclingnews after his stage 1 win

By Gabriella Ekström in Meaux

Shy but popular
Photo: © CN

When speaking to Cyclingnews in the village in Saint-Denis before the start of stage 1, Petacchi was honest about his chances today. Being a flat stage in the first week of the Tour, it was designed for him, but was he confident he could win it? "Yeah, I'll win it," was his frank answer.

That's what he said then, but the truth is that Alessandro is not that confident in reality. "Oh, I always complain about something in the races and I'll tell the guys not to go to the front because I'm not feeling so good or something. I never feel secure in a race. Today was a day just like that. The guys were ordered up to the front to start chasing the three guys in the break down to my advantage. I didn't want them to chase, because I didn't feel good, but Ferretti told them to work anyway. I suffered a lot on every little climb, but the manager is always right! He was indeed because he knows that as soon as I see the red flag I forget about my problems and aches, and all I'll think about is the sprint. I must say that this sprint is one of the hardest and best I've done this year, probably the best."

Read the full interview with Alessandro Petacchi.

McEwen rues missed chance

A second place in the opening road stage of the Tour has left Robbie McEwen hungering for more. After his Lotto-Domo team did much of the chasing work with Fassa Bortolo and Credit Agricole, he couldn't quite finish it off as Alessandro Petacchi went from a long way out to claim the stage win.

"Leon Van Bon led me out perfectly, but I started the sprint too early, couldn't finish it," McEwen told Belgian TV after the stage. "Although I was going for a stage win, the intermediate bonus sprint and the green jersey gives me a lot of self confidence."

Big setbacks for CSC and Rabobank

Levi Leipheimer
Photo: © CN

After the massive pileup which took down 30 riders at the end of the first stage today, the CSC and Rabobank teams are counting their losses with the injuries to Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer and Marc Lotz. Hamilton broke his right collarbone (without dislocation), and although he won't make a decision until tomorrow morning about whether to start stage 2, it seems like a lost cause for the tough as nails American.

Rabobank lost two riders in Leipheimer and Lotz: the former suffering a broken hip bone in his left buttock, and the latter suffering facial injuries including an injured left eye socket. Neither will start tomorrow.

Many other riders came down in the crash, including race leader Brad McGee, Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Jimmy Casper and Richard Virenque. Casper ended the stage in a neck brace, but upon examination it was found that he had not broken anything, and will continue the race tomorrow.

Despite criticism from the riders that the course was dangerous with a corner so close to the finish, the Tour organisers defended the safety of the race. Competition director Jean-Francois Pescheux said, "If people tell me today that it was dangerous, then they should stop cycling."

Wilson glad to be rolling

By Chris Henry

Brad McGee
Photo: © Sirotti

With teammate and compatriot Bradley McGee in the leader's yellow jersey, Tour first-timer Matthew Wilson is happy to finally have the race underway, and looks forward to defending McGee's overall lead. After a dramatic finale which saw many of the top riders go down in a last kilometre pileup, Wilson expressed satisfaction with the race start.

"I'm glad to get it up and started and get the legs rolling over," he told Cyclingnews after crossing the line. "It was getting a bit stressful the first few days, with all the build up, but it's a normal race now."

The team plans to defend McGee's jersey, without compromising Baden Cooke's opportunities to contest the bunch sprints of the first week. Wilson and his teammates are set to give their all for to keep the race lead.

"We're all sky high now, and everyone is doing what they can to defend it," he said happily. "It's fantastic you can be in the jersey is like another stage win as far as we're concerned."

Ludewig comments on Saeco tactics

Cyclingnews' Gabriella Ekström caught up with German Saeco rider Jörg Ludewig to talk about how Saeco will approach the following stages, in order to protect their GC outsider Gilberto Simoni.

Jörg, who is riding his first Tour was thrilled just to be at the location. "To me this is a dream coming true. I've always wanted to do this race, just like everybody else I guess. Until last Sunday I still wasn't sure weather I'd get a clear sign to go ahead or not, but now I'm finally here. My role in the team will be to protect Gilberto in the beginning of the race. I'll stay close to him in case there anything he needs. I'm the waterboy, who does what nobody else wants to do," Jörg said with a smile.

"The whole team will pretty much be gathered around Gilberto to protect him, and to assist him. I don't have any ambitions for myself in the first week, and cannot waste any energy before the TTT on stage 4. We might have a go with Salvatore Commesso or Gerrit Glomser at some point, but then it would have to be towards the end, so no early breaks for us. Basically the whole team will take it as easy as possible and save up energy for the TTT, where we want to limit our losses to ONCE and Botero, and also to USPS and Lance of course. If we manage to keep Gilberto within two minutes of their time, he should be in a pretty good position for the rest of the race."

Millar lashes out at Cofidis

David Millar
Photo: © Monique du Bois

Following his crushing defeat in the Tour prologue, where he finished less than one second behind winner Bradley McGee due to mechanical problems, David Millar once again vented his frustrations with the Cofidis team management. Well on his way to a perfect ride in the centenary Tour opener, Millar's chain became jammed in the last kilometre, forcing the Scot to reach down and correct the problem before surging out of the saddle in a desperate bid to retain his lead.

Millar did not assign the blame to team mechanics or the lack of a front derailleur, despite the fact that several other riders on the team reportedly had similar difficulties. Instead, he told l'Equipe after the prologue that that Cofidis was not able to procure enough time trial chainrings from Campagnolo, and thus was forced to shop around for alternatives. In Millar's mind, team manager Alain Bondue remains responsible for equipment choices.

"He's the one who manages the contracts and the choice of equipment," Millar explained. "To me it's clear, the equipment does not perform well enough."

Millar was no doubt furious with his missed opportunity for a second prologue victory, but eventually put on a brave face and laughed at his own misfortune. "In the end, I'm perhaps a little Poupou," Millar laughed.*

*Poupou = Raymond Poulidor

Rodriguez psyched for a stage win

By Anthony Tan

Fred Rodriguez
Photo: © Jeff Tse

Despite battling through injuries which ruined his spring classics ambitions, American sprinter Fred Rodriguez is now close to 100 per cent fitness, and will be approaching the Tour de France with a view to a stage win.

The 29 year old from Emeryville, California, began the 2003 season well with a stage win and fourth overall at the Tour of Rhodes in Greece, but a crash on the final stage followed by a worse crash at the GP E3-Harelbeke destroyed his chances for every spring classic after that.

"It was right at the critical point [of the season] where I needed to be going 100 per cent and I kept trying to race, so I finished Harelbeke, then I did de Panne - which was probably the biggest mistake I made - because at that point, my body was really, really blocked up," said Rodriguez. "At that point, I really need to let the body heal itself and start from ground zero again."

In doing the exact opposite, Rodriguez continued his spate of poor performances until the Tour of Georgia, where Fast Freddy's form suddenly did an about-turn, finishing the race with two stage wins, the sprinter's classification and second overall. Despite his reversal of fortune, however, Rodriguez opted for some time out to correct his pedaling imbalance and incessant back problems still resulting from his crash in Harelbeke.

Following his period of recuperation and training for the Tour, Rodriguez is ready to do battle in his third Tour de France, saying that his form is "85 per cent or so, but quickly climbing to 100 per cent". Both he and team-mate Romans Vainsteins will share the stages best suited for the sprinters, while Stefano Garzelli will concentrate on placing well on general classification.

"My goal here is to showcase myself at the biggest event in cycling and to someday win a stage and continue winning stages," said Rodriguez. "I love winning and I love being on top. For some guys, just finishing might be a result; for some people, helping their captain might be a huge result - for me, it's going in there and trying to win a stage."

See also: Cyclingnews interview with Fred Rodriguez

Rudy Project joins the Fantasy Game

Jan Ullrich
Photo: © Jeff Tse

Rudy Project eyewear is famously worn by Jan Ullrich, as well as 40 percent of the riders in this year's Tour de France, and the Italian sunglasses are also on the prizes roster for the 2003 Tour de France Fantasy Game. Players in the fantasy game have the chance to win one of six pairs of Rudy Project sunglasses on offer, such as Jan's favoured Tayo model, or the Ekynox.

The eyewear is the latest addition to the extensive array of prizes on offer in the Fantasy Game, leading off with the Major Prize being a limited edition Giant TCR 100 package valued at 10,000 euros.

You can still enter the Fantasy Game until stage 6, so for your chance to win and for full details on all the prizes on offer in the 2003 Tour de France Fantasy Game, please visit the Fantasy Game section and register to enter your dream team.

Wielinga signs for two years

One day after his Tour debut, Rabobank offered a contract to Remmert Wielinga until the end of 2005. Remmert started as junior with the Rabobank, and happily accepted the offer to stay on. "My roots are in this team my, I've always enjoyed it," he said. "Now I've been given the chance to develop myself - without too much pressure - in the coming two years."

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